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Jesse White

Housing Award Goes to Environmental Leader


San Francisco – In an award ceremony on May 7 at the City Club of San Francisco, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California will award Tom Steinbach, former executive director of Greenbelt Alliance, the title of “Inspirational Non-Profit Housing Leader.” The award recognizes Greenbelt Alliance’s work to support the creation of affordable homes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

This is the first time the award has gone to an organization not exclusively focused on housing.

“Tom’s extraordinary vision cemented Greenbelt Alliance’s position as a regional leader in planning for healthy communities,” said Dianne Spaulding, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. A statement from the association read:

“The most important part of Tom’s legacy is the vision he brought to Greenbelt Alliance. New to the Bay Area when he assumed the helm at Greenbelt Alliance, Tom quickly saw a ripe opportunity to meld traditional environmental efforts—which focused on saving open space—with increasingly pressing social justice and housing efforts—which focused on where and how to accommodate the region’s burgeoning population. …Tom was pivotal in helping these two sides of the same coin see they could be allies, not adversaries, in promoting sustainable growth. This, in turn, helped transform Greenbelt Alliance into a regional leader for creating effective growth policies that balance open space and healthy communities.

In these efforts, Tom specifically reached out to non-profit developers, a sector not seen as a traditional ally by most environmental groups. Tom engaged non-profit developers in a dialogue about infill development and transit-oriented development, and made developers allies in Greenbelt Alliance’s livable communities work. He was also a founding leader of the Great Communities Collaborative, a regional campaign to create walkable communities near transit.
Tom has transformed the way the Bay Area thinks about, and practices, environmentalism and growth.”

“I am deeply honored to receive this award,” said Steinbach, who is now environment program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “The collaboration of environmentalists, affordable housing advocates, and social justice groups in the Bay Area is adding up to healthy, livable communities and a thriving environment. It’s a model our region can offer the nation.”

After 50 years, a new leader
Greenbelt Alliance celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It will mark the occasion with a San Francisco event on September 10, where those who have helped protect the Bay Area’s farmland can gather to enjoy some of its bounty: its famed local food and wine. (Event tickets are not yet on sale but the event will be open to the public, with a reduced price for members.)

Greenbelt Alliance’s new director, Jeremy Madsen, took over in April. Madsen was field director with Greenbelt Alliance for four years before spending three years at the San Francisco Foundation, where he worked with Steinbach and other partners to launch the Great Communities Collaborative.

Madsen is committed to continuing Greenbelt Alliance’s focus on creating inviting, livable neighborhoods throughout the region, with homes local people can afford.

“Greenbelt Alliance works to direct growth into the region’s cities and towns, to make them better places to live,” said Madsen. “People need affordable homes that are close to jobs, transit, and services. That’s the greenest, most equitable way for the Bay Area to grow.”

Greenbelt Alliance advocates for smart growth—creating a mix of shops, offices, and homes in city centers. Greenbelt Alliance endorses developments that meet specific guidelines—such as including affordable homes. The organization also works with local residents and elected leaders around the region to stop sprawl development and create more walkable communities.

“I really appreciate the recognition of Tom’s and Greenbelt Alliance’s leadership,” said Madsen, “Our goal is to make the Bay Area a better place for everyone who lives and works here.”

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